Kleiner Perkins’ Mid-Life Crisis

As VentureBeat was first to report this morning, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has hired yet another Sun Microsystems cofounder. This time it’s John Gage, who just left his post as chief researcher at Sun to become a partner at KPCB.

Hard to imagine that the news will blow anyone’s socks off. No offense meant to Gage, presumably a brilliant individual who will provide “counsel to [KPCB’s] global network of entrepreneurs, scientists, academics and government leaders.”

It’s more that Gage is joining two weeks after Electronic Arts’ cofounder William “Bing” Gordon took up residence at the storied venture capital firm. And even Gordon’s appointment elicited a few yawns, at least around my breakfast table. (I happened to be eating by myself at the time.)

The problem is that half of KPCB’s press in recent years has been about one of the big guns it’s brought aboard, including Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Sun Microsystems cofounder Bill Joy — both listed as partners — as well as General Colin Powell, who’s listed at the firm’s site as a “strategic limited partner,” whatever that means.

Aside from the initial wow factor that sometimes accompanies such appointments, what’s the point of bringing aboard the stars that KPCB has in recent years? It doesn’t need the cache. More, aside from Joy — who actually does represent KPCB on three boards — the appointments are starting to make the 36-year-old firm look a little like a middle-ager with an identity crisis.

Obviously, thanks to Google alone, Kleiner will never again need to count its nickels. Still, why hire every old pal in the Kleiner circle? Why not just pick up the iPhone every now and call them?

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